Labour discrimination

Kaladan Movement

Labour discrimination is embedded in the Kaladan Project’s 2008 Framework Agreement. Article 17 of the Agreement states that “Indian labour laws, including rates of payment and compensation, will apply to Indian personnel including technicians [while] Myanmar (Burma) workers shall be subject to Myanmar labour laws.” On the ground this stipulation has resulted in unrest among local labourers who feel as if they are being treated as second-class citizens in their own state. At the Site-tway Port site, local labourers face discrimination in terms of their working conditions and wages. The unrest has been growing. On 8 August 2012, approximately 40 ESSAR workers from the Site-tway Port construction site staged a strike in front of the local ESSAR offi ce to bring attention to their grievances about not being treated equally to Indian workers on the site.

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According to field research conducted by the Arakan Rivers Network, the workers had four main demands in response to what they consider to be unfair treatment compared to Indian workers at the site:

  1. Local workers should receive a standard minimum wage of 5,000 kyats per day. In comparison Indian workers receive at least 700,000 kyats per month (approximately 23,000 kyats per day).
  2. Local workers should receive their wages in a timely and standardized manner. At present wages are often distributed late, and managers are able to cut workers wages at their discretion.
  3. Local workers should receive the pay raises that were promised when they were hired.
  4. Local workers should be provided with adequate equipment. At present Indian welders receive two boiler suits, whereas local welders have only received one boiler suit and are reprimanded if the suit is dirty. At present local labourers are made to work all day in the rain without proper rain protection gear (hats, jackets and boots).

During the strike, Burma army soldiers brandishing machine guns approached the crowd and dispersed the strikers. ESSAR has to date not responded to any of the strikers’ demands.

One of the potential benefi ts of the Kaladan project is the provision of employment opportunities for local people, which can help improve livelihoods and contribute towards poverty alleviation. However, for this benefit to be realized it is important that fair remuneration and employment standards are maintained for all employees on all Kaladan Project construction sites.

Kaladan Movement report - One cannot step into the same river twice: making the Kaladan Project people-centred (Page 42)

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